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In my words, April 29 – May 5

My mother used to have a plaque on the wall; I think it was made of wrought iron, painted black with white and red lettering if I remember correctly that said:

Make new friends.
Keep the old.
One is silver.
The other gold.

For the third Friday in a row, I walked with my golden friend Tom through Central Park starting at 96th Street along the ponds where red-eared terrapins sun on the rocks, through the woods and down the lawns to the Conservatory Gardens. Tom, after forty-five years of smoking, is easing off of cigarettes, and the walks have been a time of breathing, relaxing, and thinking of other things. There’s a law in New York that says you aren’t supposed to smoke in a city park. A little while ago, Tom would have broken that law. Now he jokes, “Soon we’ll be able to smoke pot.” Tom looks better since he’s been quitting; there’s more color in him. The park has also been changing. “To many shades of green.” Daffodils and magnolias ruled the first week, the second Friday was white and pink crabapples, and now magenta lilacs, purple and dusty blue, tulips and wisteria in bloom.

At first, my throat became dry and there was nothing I could do, but gag and cough. “The pollen count is up,” Tom said handing me his bottle of water, and that did the trick. In five minutes, I was fine and though teary eyed, pulled a branch of lilacs to me and deeply smelled. Walking with a friend, you can talk about anything and feel just as comfortable talking of nothing, enjoying the stroll and sights. Tom often remembers his dead wife, his son and daughter, his grandsons, going on seven and four (he was just visiting them in Japan), and because I knew and know these people, and care for them too, I am able to understand no matter where and when Tom begins. In the early 80s, Tom saw me perform Fucking at Inroads in Soho, approached me afterward and announced that he wanted to film me reciting a part of the poem, which we did: Poet Laundromat. We’ve worked together closely, fought, didn’t speak to each other for awhile, but here we are the stronger for it, understanding worth every penny, good friends on this grand day, having weathered the storms.

It wasn’t a day of friendship only, but of many young fathers as well. “They’re ubiquitous,” Tom said. One waited while his toddler chased the falling blossoms. Another held his child up to get a closer look at a fountain statue, nymph holding a plate of pouring water where real sparrows splashed. One held his daughter up for us to see his happiness overflowing like the fountain in the pool. Another shook a branch sending petals falling “like snow,” he told his little boy who looked up and held his little palms out. Everything was optimistic.

Today is Sunday. Early. I have a couple of things left to do. My oldest friend, Pat, whom I’ve known since fourth grade, is coming tonight, staying over, between flights, on his way from Tacoma to Greece. The work room where the spare bed is has been vacuumed and mopped. Clean sheets and a clean towel await the guest. I’m going to make salmon patties kind of like my Grandma used to make with a can of salmon, celery, onion, parsley and green pepper; I’m going to chop up some shrimp and add that, then mix in flour and eggs to help the patties hold together when I fry them in the sizzling butter after a flouring with a little salt and pepper. I’m going to make cranberry relish with a fresh lemon and a coleslaw with shredded cabbage and carrots tossed in a little bit of apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and black pepper, and there will be iced tea, warmed tortillas, and maybe yes perhaps I’ll sautée some collard greens or kale. I’m looking forward.

The work room was a mess on Friday. Yikes! Lesson plans all over, chapbooks, sweaters on the bench and bed; things that started out in order separated into piles got confused as more was added, gathered becoming strewn and wild. I sat on the nice clean bed this morning before I started to write, drank black coffee, and looked down at La Plaza, the park and garden across the street. I could sadly see some of the plants that haven’t survived Hurricane Sandy. When the Atlantic Ocean came pouring over the street, drowning the cars and knocking out the lights, leaving the night black with the horrible sounds of dying car alarms, the salt water that flooded and soaked La Plaza killed the pines, bushes now brown and brittle. One small tree that had been damaged when the willow fell on it during Hurricane Irene, now stands no longer broken and mending, but dead waiting to be cut down. In place of the willow, fruit trees were planted and they are sprouting leaves as I write, surviving climate change and the salt water. Off in the distance the new World Trade Center rises out of its own ashes, flashing phoenix that it is. It finally got its spire this week; tiny machinery dangles at its peak way above the city, almost finished. May La Plaza, One World Trade and I stay friends. Things change constantly around constant friends.


Peg screams to see
a mole peek
from the sharp
and gentle jaws
of the cat
she’s lifted for a kiss
beneath the apple tree.

Snow white pink edged
falling blossoms spin.
Some end in the black fur
or clinging to her curls.

South Mountain, May 74

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